The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding for as long as possible. As babies grow at different paces, health professionals should advise the mother on the appropriate time when her baby should start receiving complementary foods.
How Many Calories Do Lactating Moms Need?
It’s no surprise that your energy and nutrition needs go up when you’re breastfeeding. Choose healthy foods and beverages to get the extra energy and nutrients you both need.
As a breastfeeding mom, your body needs more energy. You need energy both to create breast milk for your little one, and to help you look after him!
Every woman is different, but if your pre-pregnancy weight was in the recommended range, you probably need between an additional 400 and 500 kilocalories per day to produce breast milk2. That’s on top of the approximately 1,600 to 1,800 kilocalories the average woman (who is not pregnant) needs per day.
Some of this extra energy will come from the fat you stored during pregnancy and the rest will come from your food. Of course you may need more or lesser energy, so check with your healthcare provider.
It’s not just about calories. Eating a couple of extra dessert foods, for instance, isn’t the answer! Foods that are rich in nutrients will help your body produce high-quality breast milk. Eating well now can support your child’s healthy growth. It can also help maintain your own stores of nutrients.
As a mom who is breastfeeding, you need more nutrients. Some of these include protein, vitamin A, iron, iodine, selenium and zinc. This means you need to choose nutrient-rich foods so you get the nutrients you need without consuming too many calories.
For more on the specific nutrients you need during breastfeeding (and why), see below for suggestions of 400-kcal snacks that combine servings from the five food groups. And for a quick list of 100-kcal snack ideas, see The 100 List from the pregnancy section of the programme.
Here’s how you might build your own 400-kcal snacks or mini meals from the five food groups.
Mix and match servings (one circle = one serving) from the different food groups to hit your extra-calories goal.1
1Serving of meat is generally 75-kcal. Very lean meat (including many varieties of fish and chicken) may have fewer calories because it’s lower in fat than some cuts of beef or pork. Non-meat sources of protein vary in calories. One serving of beans or lentils (1/2 cup) is 125-kcal. One serving of hummus (1/3 cup) is 180-kcal. One serving of nut spread (1 tablespoon) is 100-kcal.
2NCCFN (2017). Recommended current intakes for Malaysia. Ministry of Health Malaysia, Putrajaya.